We have a choice, to confess before the Lord, or not, but there are two things that occur if confession does occur. All believers, John included, must acknowledge our sin before God, in order to experience Jesus’ cleansing work.
Agreement with God in Mutual understanding of Guilt Before Him-And the idea behind the word “confess” is that this is an admission to the truthfulness of one’s guilt before a judge. In this word “confession”, is also the idea of “agreement” with God, regarding our sin. This is important, since the flesh will always want to justify our sin (ex. Genesis 3:11b-12).
Taking Responsibility-While it’s true that confession before God means “saying the same thing” as God says about sin, there’s more than just a simple agreement with the Truthfulness of God’s point of view. Public or private?–We’re talking about personal confession to God here. Look at the case of Simon a sorcerer in Samaria in Acts 18. We see a man who was craving power, and who was practicing magic. But then he met Philip, and we read in verse 13 Now even Simon himself believed; and after being baptized, he continued on with Philip, and as he observed signs and great miracles taking place, he was repeatedly amazed. He had a lot to learn about being a Christian, (Acts 8:18-24). But, we also see that he acknowledged his sin just as soon as it was brought to his attention. He confessed, and agreed with God’s Word through the Apostle Peter that he needed a heart correction.
How sin is confessed
To God through prayer – In giving the model prayer, Jesus said that part of what we are to pray is this: “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). This is the primary way in which we are to confess sins. Confessing sins to God through prayer is always necessary.
To the one sinned against – Jesus talked about this in the Sermon on the Mount: “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering” (Matthew 5:23-24). If we have sinned against someone, we have the responsibility to go to that person and make things right.
To a trusted individual – In the case of a sin that is handled between two brethren and the one in sin repents, no one else necessarily needs to know about it (Matthew 18:15). “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16). James was certainly talking about confessing sins to one another, and this model encourages us to engage others in prayer with us, agreeing together regarding the need for victory in this area.
How to confess
Be Specific–John’s point is that we are to confess known sins. We admit to God that we have transgressed specific commands. In order to be effective in our confession to God, we must be specific. Being specific about it helps us understand that God forgives us. This allows Him to help us, while we acknowledge that it is HIM helping us, and not our own strength.
Accompany confession with sorrow – Paul told the brethren in Corinth, “I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:9-10). We are to mourn over sin, and we will be led to repentance.
Indicate that you have repented of the sin. Repentance means not only to acknowledge sin, but to repent, or turn away from it and toward God.
Be willing to help others, if they come to you–We have a responsibility to “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2).
He is Faithful and Just-We can confess with certainty of forgiveness because God is faithful to keep His promises. We know this because God is both faithful and just. God is faithful to us in keeping His promise to forgive our sins on the basis of what Jesus has done. Eph 1:7 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our wrongdoings, according to the riches of His grace. His justice is faithfully carried out.
To forgive our sin and to cleanse us from every unrighteousness-It is because of God’s character of justice and forgiveness that we, as believers, receive these two promises from God to the believer who comes to honestly confess our sins. God has released us from a moral obligation or debt. God pardons us by releasing us from that debt. This same term is used by Jesus when He taught the disciples to pray, “Forgive me of my debts as I have forgiven my debtors” (Matt 6:12). Even so, that release does not set aside God’s just character in that Jesus’ death (His “blood” in v. 7) is the basis of that release. We are forgiven because Jesus took our guilt upon Himself and paid the full price for its punishment. It is on the basis of His completed work on the cross that a believer experiences not only the positional forgiveness (justification), but also daily forgiveness (sanctification), which is John’s focus here. It’s about the change that this agreement with God that we have sinned, the repentance for the sin, and the confession of the sin makes in our heart that is important in terms of our relationship in cooperation with the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work in us that’s in view here. And when we cooperate with this process, God cleanses us, makes us morally pure. So, agree with God that your sins are sins. Then take responsibility for your sin, acknowledging them. Then repent of the sin, turning away from it, and turning toward God to follow Him in the light, just as He is in the light. Then confess to God, asking for forgiveness, knowing that you already have it in Christ, and can trust God to forgive you, and cleanse you from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.
8a If we say that we have no sin,
Now that John has reminded us of the complete moral purity of God, and of the necessity of walking in the light, John wants to warn us against deceiving ourselves.
Remember that John was fighting against this heresy of Gnosticism, this making up of another Jesus out of our own ideas about Him, instead of the Jesus revealed in the scriptures. This craving of secret, hidden knowledge so that only we and our group have the truth. These Gnostics were being deceived. 1 Timothy 4:1 But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons. They were being led away from Jesus by deceit as they wanted to follow the Jesus that they’d made up in their heads, instead of the One revealed in scripture. They preferred the made up Jesus, because it allowed them to live any old way that they wanted to, as long as they had a belief in Jesus. It was a rejection of God, and His plan for our lives—and that rebellion, and refusal to come to God in true repentance, is saying “no” to God, and therefore sin. They decide they want to stay on the throne of their lives, and reject Jesus’ Lordship outright. There is another group that’s a little more difficult to identify, but are likely more dangerous to us spiritually. Like the Gnostics, they make up a whole system whereby they can perceive themselves as righteous, who reject God’s standards of righteousness, while elevating their own standards, these are the self-righteous.
8b we are deceiving ourselves
In Luke 14:9-14 Jesus speaks. 9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” The Pharisee is judging the tax collector, condemning him. But look at the result: The Pharisee does not go home justified before God, despite the fact that he went to the temple to pray and receive justification. This seeking after secret knowledge, or the “inside track” with God is just not how God operates. He is Righteous, He is fair. So, the very act of the Gnostics saying that only they had secret, special knowledge to reach God, and condemning others, they were relying on our own self-righteousness. And this set up a barrier between them and God, and hindered the work that God wanted to do in their hearts. The self-exalting arrogance that is the motivation for wanting to condemn people in the first place is the antithesis of who we’re supposed to be in Christ! It’s always going to be a temptation to put faith in what we do. So how do we avoid this? We allow the Holy Spirit to guide us. But, since they were believing in a Jesus that wasn’t the Jesus revealed in the pages of scripture, one that was just made up on the basis of what their philosophy thought Jesus should be like, then they didn’t have the truth. And so John says that this kind of philosophy that ignores the deadliness of sin, the need for true repentance, and the need to come to God through the same Jesus whom God reveals in the scriptures leaves one bereft of truth saying:
8c and the truth is not in us.
Embracing these false doctrines that said “Well, God and I have an understanding—because of my special knowledge, I can just live any way that I want” caused many people to believe that they were saved, when they weren’t. And still does. They believed that they were saved by their knowledge about God, when the only way to be saved is to have a relationship WITH God made possible by Jesus’ finished work on the cross, and facilitated by the continued work of the Holy Spirit. So, those who try to make up a Jesus, on their own terms, who will not make demands of them end up trapped in self-deception, because they refuse to come to the truth. And this makes sense, because, as unsaved persons, they do not have the Spirit of Truth, and are subject to this kind of deception. The Holy Spirit is the spirit of truth. “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” – John 16:13
After reminding them of the need for obedience in John 14:15 saying 15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. Then Jesus makes a promise to them. He says in John 14:16-17 16 I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, so that He may be with you forever; 17 the Helper is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him; but you know Him because He remains with you and will be in you.
And so Jesus says that the Way is through Him, and that we show our love for Him by keeping His commandments, and we know the truth about Jesus, and reject falsehoods about Jesus because we have the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit. The world can’t receive Him, because it can’t see him or know him. But the Holy Spirit indwells believers, and so guides us into all truth about Jesus. The Holy Spirit testifies as a witness for Christ, the Greek is Paraclete (which is often translated “comforter”, “counselor”, or “advocate”) and which often meant “defense attorney”. As John 15:26-27 puts it 26 “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, namely, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, He will testify about Me, 27 and you are testifying as well, because you have been with Me from the beginning. So we see that the Holy Spirit carries on Jesus’ mission of revealing the Father. And because He indwells us, He mediates Jesus’ continuing presence in us. Our witness of God should flow from a deep and intimate experience of Him working in our lives. It should flow from a knowledge of God based on His Word. And that’s why we need the Holy Spirit so much to witness for God. No-one knows God like the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit is God! No-one knows the Word of God as well as the Holy Spirit, because He inspired it—He is the author! The Spirit not only empowers us to proclaim Jesus to the world but testifies to us about Jesus for our own relationship with him. We read in John 16:12-15 12 “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them at the present time. 13 But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take from Mine and will disclose it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine; this is why I said that He takes from Mine and will disclose it to you.; So the Holy Spirit guides us into all truth, but especially the Holy Spirit reveals the nature of Jesus to us, and shows us His glory. People will be convinced by the Truth of God especially when they know that it comes from a deep understanding of God’s Truth from His Word evidenced by our personal living out of this relationship that we have with Him.
We’re not supposed to figure everything out on our own, we’re supposed to allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him. We need our Guide, our Helper, our Advocate, so that we truly understand and glorify the Jesus of the Bible, and so that we are not mislead by those who would try to get us to follow any other Jesus that they have made up. Follow our True guide, the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit, and allow Him to show us how to apply God’s Word to our hearts and our lives.
5a This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you
1st John is an attestation by an eye-witness of what John heard. John is bearing witness that this comes directly from God.
5b that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.
So John begins the main part of epistle with a declaration of God’s morally pure nature. It’s not just that God is a light, God IS light. The message here is that God is completely, unreservedly, absolutely pure, with no admixture of sin and no hint of injustice.
We can trust Him
James 1:17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. He is consistent, and we can count on Him. Malachi 3:6 “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.”, Numbers 23:19 God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? (AlsoIsa 40:8 Heb 13:8).
We can take refuge in Him
Nahum 1:7 The LORD is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble, And He knows those who take refuge in Him. If we will depend on Him, He is able to keep us. Jude 1:24-25 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, He is able to keep our light shining if we will trust Him and abide, remain with Him.
But it requires a choice to remain and abide with Him. Continuing on in 1st John 1 verse 6:
6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;
Jesus said in John 8:12 12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” So, Jesus is telling us that if our habitual lifestyle is sinful, then we are in darkness, and therefore must NOT be following Him, because whoever follows Him will never walk in darkness. We must choose to follow Him, to make Him both our Lord and Savior. It’s not enough just to know that He is the light, we must choose to abide, remain with Him.
7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light,
We have fellowship with Jesus IF we walk in the light. Jesus will reach into the darkness to pull us out, and into the light, but He cannot walk in the darkness, since He Himself is light. Jesus doesn’t want us to have anything to do with darkness. But He wants us to have compassion for unbelievers. The example Jesus set for us is to build relationships with people who don’t know Him. When we meet a person who has not yet experienced God’s saving grace, we are to have the heart of Jesus and extend a helping hand at their point of need. Jesus came to our rescue when we were lost. Nonbelievers are spiritually sick (like we were), and they need saving faith in Jesus. They need His love, forgiveness, mercy, and grace. But at the same time, we must remember that We won’t be much good to the spiritually sick, if we ignore our own spiritual health. We can’t let unbelievers pull us into unrighteousness. We must walk in the light. We mustn’t join them in sin. (2 Cor 6:14).
we have fellowship with one another,
And so, John’s central purpose is to promote oneness with God in Christ through righteous obedience and to promote fellowship within the congregation (1:3), both with God, in unity with Him, and with each other. His purpose is to encourage them in their faith and walk with God. And that’s what he’s trying to tell us. We must have fellowship, koinonia, participation in Christ, as One Body of Christ. And this fellowship with Jesus is based on following Him, the light in the World.
and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
God is light, and so is His Son Jesus. When Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” in John 8:12, he means that we walk with Him in the light, and so progress in our spiritual journey, getting closer to Him, more like Him.
As we abide with Him, we are cleansed from sin—remaining close to Him causes sin to flee as we are given the strength to resist and overcome it through the power, the Spirit of God. And we are cleansed from it by His blood, once and for all at calvary, when we are saved, but the effect is a continual cleansing, as the power of sin is removed from our lives in the process of sanctification.
Let your light shine
It’s our job to proclaim and praise and glorify Jesus before a world that has a tendency to want to resist God. Jesus said in Matthew 5:14-16 You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. 15 Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
We have a job to do. If our purpose was just to fellowship with God and enjoy His presence, His Peace, His Joy, then why wouldn’t He just take us to heaven when we are saved? Then we could enjoy fellowship with Him more completely. But He leaves us on the earth so that we can reflect Jesus’ light to other people, and allow them to see the change that He makes in lives.
You are the light of the world
The same Jesus who said I am the Light of the world in John 8:12 and John 9:5 said to His disciples You are the light of the world. We have been chosen to declare the praise of God to a dark world, as Peter reminds us in 1 Peter 2:9 9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. We are the light of the world, first and foremost, because we continue on Jesus’ ministry of being the light of the world.
Light exposes the darkness
One of the effects of light is that it exposes and drives away darkness. John 3:19-20 says 19 And this is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the Light; for their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light, so that his deeds will not be exposed. 21 But the one who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds will be revealed as having been performed in God.”
The light reveals the truth, and so those who practice evil want to hide in the shadows. Those who are of the world hate the light and want to get as far from it, and those who bear it, as possible.
See the Light
We all start out this way. But we must accept that we have fallen short of His perfect righteous standards. When we come to Him on the basis of His Righteousness, accepting the offer of the free gift of salvation, making Him Lord of our lives, and savior of our souls, then, as Romans 3:24 tells us, we are 24 [being] justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; Justification is a legal term. God declares us Innocent, in Right-Relationship with Him, Righteous. We are redeemed, as Jesus buys us back from the power of the enemy, as our Kinsman redeemer. And Jesus made propitiation for our sin by paying the penalty for sin, the wages for sin, which is death, which satisfies that righteous anger and offence to God our Creator. Our debt is paid in full. Payment is completed. Tetelestai. And this offer is open to anyone. Even as all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and we all start out life as sinners, with the default destiny of hell, so this offer of being justified freely by His grace is open to everyone who will believe.